By Lori Gogolin, Horticulturist
One of the first signs of spring in the Arlene and Arthur Holden Butterfly Garden is the bloom of Aesculus pavia, (red buckeye). Not only is this native small tree beautiful, but it is an important source of food for pollinators and migrating birds.
Aesculus pavia is an excellent early source of nectar for bees, hummingbirds and nectar drinking birds. Working in the garden over the years, I have noticed that as the tree starts to bloom the migrating ruby throated hummingbirds arrive. Studies by scientists have shown that hummingbirds may be carrying pollen long distances and even helping to create some natural hybridization of several native buckeye species as they migrate north in the spring. The tubular shaped red flowers are perfect for their long tongues and can be seen from the air. This tree is also a big attraction for migrating Baltimore orioles. It is amazing how nature coevolves.
Aesculus pavia is an early blooming tree that is native to much of North America. It is hardy from zone 8 to 4. It gets to be about 15 ft tall and about 15ft wide. It requires full sun to part shade, with medium moisture. The leaves are large and shiny and palmately compound. This tree is located at the entrance off the patio of the Arlene and Arthur Holden Butterfly Garden.
There is not much of a fall color display, but the tree does bare interesting fruit. The fruit is poisonous so most critters stay away from it, except some squirrels, who have a natural immunity.